One of the leaders’ top priorities – whether they manage a small team or an entire organization – is to find ways to improve performance. Technology upgrades and improved processes certainly lead to productivity and quality improvements. However, we cannot underestimate the value of simple and easy-to-implement leadership activities that bring the team together and teach important and necessary skills in the workplace.
Use these three leadership activities to improve performance.
Communication: coaching of builders
Effective communication is essential to maintain high productivity and generate results that meet expectations. Executive leaders, supervisors and employees can benefit from better communication skills. This exercise highlights the importance of listening to and using succinct and clear language to avoid misunderstandings and errors. Follow these steps:
- Divide participants into groups of 4 to 7 people. Offer each group two sets that have at least 10 mounting blocks (Lego, for example). Before the exercise, you must assemble a simple object (such as a house) with one of the sets of blocks.
- Assign a leader, a dwellee, a builder, and a person responsible for taking notes. The latter should observe and document how people behaved during the activity, what seemed to work and when participants made mistakes.
- Give the leader the item you’ve assembled, taking care that only he can see the object. Mark 10 minutes on the clock. When the activity begins, the leader will pass instructions to the delegante on how the constructor should mount an exact replica of the object. Remember that the delegante should not see the object and the constructor should not hear this conversation.
- The delegante hears what has been said and then goes to the builder and repeats the leader’s instructions. The delegante can return to talk to the leader as many times as he deems necessary during the 10-minute period.
- The constructor uses the other block sets to construct exactly the same object that the leader can see, using only the delegante statements as guidance. The delegante should not see the object during construction.
- After 10 minutes, compare the leader object with the constructor’s to confirm that they look alike. Discuss what was frustrating or easy during the process and discuss what each person would do differently to get better results next time.
Accountability: clarity on objectives and expectations
When expectations and deadlines are not met, we sometimes attribute these results to lack of accountability. Often, however, this is not because the individual responsible for the task did not try hard enough, but because the expectations of this individual were unclear. If team members start work without actually understanding the purpose or objectives of a task and also the desired outcome, they will make mistakes that can be costly and cause delays.
This leadership activity teaches employees how important it is to clarify the issues before starting a task to increase accountability. Here are some scenarios in which this activity can be useful:
- Meeting with managers organized by an executive.
- Daily quick meetings conducted by supervisors with their direct subordinates.
- Teambuilding session with all employees.
Here’s what to do:
At the beginning of the meeting, tell the group, “You are sitting the wrong way for today’s meeting. You have 60 seconds to improve this organization.” If team members ask for more information, repeat the instructions. Perhaps some of them will keep insisting, while the others will already start moving the seats. Note what they do, but don’t give other information, feedback, or instructions. After a minute, ask them to stop and ask these questions:
- “Have you achieved the goals? How do you get it?” Talk about how the team might not have achieved the goals because they weren’t clear.
- “Who asked for an explanation? How did you feel when I refused to give you more details?” Explain that when participants do not ask for an explanation and when the person responsible for the project does not clarify the doubts, everyone runs the risk of making mistakes and not being able to complete the task.
- “How has the pressure of time changed your behavior?” Tell them that when people are stressed or under pressure, they usually start work in a hurry, without confirming if they understand what was requested, which often causes problems.
Finally, this activity will show how employees should handle a task that generates questions. It will also show the leader how to set clearer expectations and create a culture in which communication is clear and accountability is the rule.
Ability to solve problems: team collaboration
When facing a new challenge or dealing with an idea or project, teams need to know whether to organize on their own, create an action plan, solve problems, and work together to achieve a common goal. With this exercise, you’ll encourage participants to test their creativity and ability to solve a team problem:
- Offer a variety of materials such as paper, cardboard, wooden blocks, pencils, paper clips, canudos, and more.
- Divide participants into teams of four to eight members. If the group is smaller, teams of two or three members are sufficient.
- Explain that the goal is to build the tallest tower in 20 minutes using any of the materials offered.
- Then talk about each group’s strategy and ask:
○ Who planned before it started and who started the task in a hurry? What were the results of these two approaches?
○ How did the groups define who would do what?
○ Was there a leader? Or did everyone do their part?
○ What was the hardest part of the task? And the easiest?
○ How can you apply these learnings to the projects you are currently participating in?
Depending on the type of group that participated in the activity, the following questions may be different. For instance:
- For individuals of any hierarchical level: based on this activity, which communication strategies of the leader were most useful?
- For supervisors: in this activity, when did communication failures occur? How have they harmed the creation process?
- For executives: As a builder, what would you need to receive from the leader but didn’t? As a leader, have your instructions been followed accurately? How could you improve accuracy and understanding?
These three activities help develop some of the most important leadership skills: communication, accountability and problem solving skills. They are important for individuals of any hierarchical level in the organization, from the executive team to the employees. With each exercise, they learn to work more efficiently,both individually and as a team. With this, the performances improve throughout the organization.